Friday, June 6, 2008

Philadelphia's Phinancial Health

I subscribe to a number of publications on line. Mostly real estate and business stuff to help me keep abreast of what's going on across the country. I am also interested in what new programs or systems might have some application in buying, selling and owning real estate in Philadelphia.

I notice that there are lots and lots of lists. AOL loves lists as does Forbes Magazine . So I get to know "The 10 Best Airports", "The 10 Worst Airports" (which of course include the three that I use the most - Philadelphia International, LAX, and O'Hare in Chicago), "The 10 Best Places to Retire","The 10 Best Places to Live", "The 10 Most Expensive Areas to Live", etc. etc. I guess this makes for a few reasons. . Forbes is a business magazine and these are all concerns of businesspeople. Lists are visual, and every list can provide a slide show of 10 city views along with a paragraph on why the city made the list, and of course there can be a cool map of graph to go with the data,

Where I do not expect to get my financial is Men's Health Magazine. I mean that's the place to learn about how to get a rock hard ab. Or how to eat well, and exercise properly without hurting yourself. Nonetheless, Men's Health was the source of a recent article entitled, "Is your City a Debt Trap?". In this article the magazine analyzed which Cities in the United States are the unhealthiest places to live financially.

Not Surprisingly, Las Vegas came in as the most debt ridden City in the United States, at Number 100. For the overall ranking, a lower ranking is better. That is, a city ranked No. 17 has less personal debt than one ranked No. 89. So the next thing I did was look at Philadelphia's ranking. Our fair city was ranked #77! Well, at least we aren't in the worst 10, but 75% of the cities in the Survey had less personal debt then we do.

For the individual criteria, a higher ranking is better. So a city ranked No. 92 for foreclosure has a lower foreclosure rate than a city ranked No. 3. Therefore our Credit Score(59) rating, Foreclosure rating (60) and Bankruptcy Rating(43) were all pretty decent.

Where we seem to have a problem is not in losing our housing or in being so debt burdened that we have to seek the protection of the courts from our creditor, but in Credit Usage(25), Credit Debt (28), and Housing Costs (26). The housing costs include rental expense, and it is these categories that weigh us in and weigh down our overall rating in this survey.

Housing Costs? I have a really hard time with that. Our real estate is, and has always been extremely affordable. I often travel to different parts of the country for meetings about the real estate industry, and in comparison with other major metropolitan areas, we seem to fare pretty well. We have a large stock of affordable row housing, semi-detached (Twin) homes. Even adding in pricier areas of the city and suburbs, I struggled here.

Then I looked at the 5 most affordable areas. Sioux Falls South Dakota, Fargo, North Dakota, Charleston West Virginia, Montgomery Alabama - With all due respect, these are not cities to compare to Philadelphia. While I'm sure that they have much to recommend them, I think that this is a survey that might have been better served if it was broken into different classes of cities. But its my fault - after all I am gettig my financial advice from Men's health.

But the bad news is that Philadelphians carry more debt then they should, and much of it is credit card debt or non-mortgage debt. A University of Pennsylvania study found that when a person's limit rises by $1,000, so does his debt--by an average of 13 percent a year. Even using less then half of your available credit can increase your debt substantially.

The good news is that we're not losing our homes or declaring bankruptcy. In other words, we borrow too much , but we're still doing OK making the payments. Maybe we just need to wait a little more before we make a purchase instead of seeking the instant gratification that a credit card can provide.


Anonymous said...

I found your blog quite by accident. I was hoping you could help me. I am a freelance writer based in Bucks County, PA. The assignment is to find realtors in the area and see what they are blogging about, why they are blogging and whether it is helping their selling in this tight market. Since you are the closest realtor to Bucks County that I've found I thought I would start with you. My email is if you care to reply.
Also if you know of any realtors in the area who are also blogging let me know.
Diane Mouskourie, freelance writer